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Aztechy

Good Morning from Mexico, where the sun is shining and the construction noise can be deafening. Bob and I are on stage one of the never-ending search for a beach house. Our grandchild magnet doesn’t have to actually be ON a beach, just close enough to count.

The last time we were in Mexico was for Great Grandma Ada’s 90th birthday bash. We traveled as a large family group and stayed at a luxury resort in Cabo San Lucas. There was whale watching and celebrating galore but it seemed like we were inside a cocoon made for Americans.

This time we rented a car in Cancun and drove 75 miles to Tulum. I found a beautiful new penthouse condo on AirBnB, and we don’t need a gym. Our stair master is the 3 flights of stairs we climb multiple times a day. We’ve been living la vida local.

When a streetlight turns red, a man steps into the square and serenades us with a trumpet!

We can ride our bikes to the Caribbean Sea through trails on the edge of a rain forest. The people here are genuine and kind. I’m surprised that most don’t speak English, but that is my bias showing. Mea Culpa. I love the greenery and the wildlife, agouti and pelicans and more. But most of all I loved visiting the Mayan ruins yesterday.

This archaeological site sits on the edge of a windswept cliff. It was first inhabited around 1500 years ago and was abandoned after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. Once a walled city that was used for religious and economic purposes – the “common people” lived outside the walls – it is now a tourist Mecca. Like Stonehenge, its design helped the people keep track of the sun and the stars.

We were early and surrounded by a few tour groups of different languages. Still, there were moments when I felt I was  walking on sacred ground; you could touch the ancient stone, you could smell the sea. Iguanas poked their ancient heads out of the their temple nests.

We returned to our rooftop deck, to the WiFi of horrific news from the states. I am afraid we have become habituated to school shootings, to allowing our children to be sacrificed to the god of money and power for the NRA. If so, like the Mayan culture, America is on a path to extinction.

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Emotional Hygiene

Mindfulness. I’ve been reading alot about this lately, and the Bride asked if I’d like to attend a Mindful Parenting and Grandparenting course with her, “Sure,” I said, who wouldn’t?

Of course my yogi daughter practices some of these techniques, like meditation, to deal with the stress of her job. You never know what’s coming through the door in an ER, and like the life of a pilot – who is on remote control until he has to land a plane in the Hudson River – she sews up a lot of cuts until someone tries to overdose (or, insert any catastrophic event).

Saying you want to “Be Here Now!” doesn’t do it for me. I need practical tips and strategies to stay in the moment and quiet my monkey brain. This morning someone wanted to follow my Instagram, and instead of immediately deleting her, I scooted over to her page @mindfuleatsnutrition. She is a “Dietician helping people make peace with food.” Some algorithm somewhere must have sensed I was at war with vegetables, since I’m always looking up new and ingenious ways to prepare okra.

She is part of the “No More Dieting” movement. Throw away your scales ladies, listen to your inner voice and practice “mindful eating.” Don’t buy pre-packaged Nutri-System meals that taste like mush, don’t join Weight Watchers and tie yourself to counting points, or whatever it is they are counting these days. Full disclosure, I did join WW before turning 60 since I was inching towards plus sizes. But by 65 I’d gained that weight back, as dieting almost always does.

Oprah, do you really think teenage girls should start attending WW with their moms?

Great Grandma Ada kept marveling at how much weight I’d lost last week. It’s true, I’d lost some weight this year because I’m not eating cookies or ice cream at night and I’m walking around this city with Ms Bean. I tend to lose weight when I’m stressed; like in my substitute teaching days when I went on my own fractional diet, eating only half of whatever was on my plate. Moving can be a wee bit stressful. There are no good and bad foods as I’ve said before, and our weight is only half of the problem.

Physical hygiene is half of self-love; caring for ourselves enough to visit a dentist regularly, to keep moving, to eat healthy by choosing more vegetables and less protein. To adore avocados!

Emotional hygiene means caring enough about ourselves to avoid negativity. To seek out a therapist if nothing else helps. To rid ourselves of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” complex and stop judging others. It’s been shown that people who hang around with depressed people start to feel depressed themselves, just like that study that said if your friends are always choosing fried foods, so will you. It may be time to start practicing mindfulness and you don’t have to be hippy-dippy to do it. I never went to Woodstock! I’ll be reporting back from our course in March.

You’ve got to put that plane’s oxygen mask on yourself first, if you want to get your babies out alive. It’s like the Dalai Lama said this morning:

Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene.

Is mindfulness your super power?

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Randomly Selected

Lucky me. Bob and I are flying today and even though we traveled to DC to obtain a Global Entry pass, and we are TSA pre-checked, I was randomly selected for “additional screening.” Which means Bob sailed through the metal detector while I told the nice TSA guy I won’t be scanned in their machine and had to wait for the female pat-down agent.

Life is funny that way.

I was talking with Great Grandma Ada about the crossroads we take in our lives. She had the chance when she was newly married to Bob’s father, to move to a lake community in NJ and join a country club. Her friends were building something new because in those days almost all clubs were “restricted.” That meant no Jews allowed.

Because her father owned a small bungalow colony with a big Victorian house for her sisters and their families, she opted out of the lake house. And looking back, which we tend to do as we age, she wishes her sons had learned to sail on the lake.

Instead they made different memories – skating on the frozen pond with their grandfather and tending to a bountiful vegetable garden.

There were a number of crossroads in my life. The most important may have been when I decided to stay in NJ and work as a semi-social worker. I’d been dating a guy who was a friend of my brother, and he was heading to California for a doctoral program. I was living near that lake at the time, and he asked me to go with him.

My foster father Daddy Jim was dying and I said “No.” That’s when Ada saw me at the hospital, visiting my Dad every night. Driving back to the lake from Jersey City. And the rest is history.

If I were religious, I’d say nothing is random. If I were scientific, I’d say chaos is inevitable. I’m more of an agnostic, and I try to learn from the universe.

Here is a son teaching his 93 year old mother a few tricks on her iPad!  C35B0D13-F3DF-43D9-B59A-309A1AC9B1CF

Yesterday was a good day, despite plunging temperatures. Bob and I packed up a bag-lunch and attended a lecture at the Bridge Building about mysterious ruins and tunnels in Nashville. The Cumberland River Compact sponsored the talk by Tony Gonzalez, a journalist who is now working on a podcast called “Curious Nashville” for our local NPR station. Listeners are asked to submit their questions to the podcast team about the city, and then vote on the most interesting idea.  http://nashvillepublicradio.org/programs/curious-nashville-podcast#stream/0

Some people wanted to know what happens if you put the wrong materials in the recycling bin. Other questions concerned “water-witching” and just what Jimi Hendrix was doing during his year of living on Jefferson Street – in our neighborhood! Gonzalez told us that when he teaches a journalism class, he always tells his students to, “…look to a river for story inspiration.” Rivers rarely disappoint. So he jumped at the chance to investigate this question from a record producer:

I’ve heard rumors of a mysterious tunnel system winding beneath downtown Nashville. Is this true?   

There were lots of rumors and theories of course: perhaps the Underground Railway utilized these tunnels; maybe bootleggers came up river to store their wares under Printer’s Alley during Prohibition? With a little urban spelunking mixed with some good, old-fashioned research on http://www.newspapers.com for original documents, Gonzalez led his audience through a twisted tale of 19th and 20th Century  development that saw creeks repurposed as sewage and water-run-off drain pipes.

Sometimes truth is just not as much fun as fiction. I loved living on the Shrewsbury River. Watching the Great Blue Heron fly over our garage for his morning meal. Reading in my car while waiting for a draw bridge to open and close. Hearing the skeet shooters across the tributary at the Rumson Country Club on Sundays. Cleaning Corgi paws of marshy black silt when the tide came in.

And we knew that bootleggers came ashore to deliver their goods to Murphy’s Tavern.

Of course, my question today is why Nashville hasn’t developed its riverfront? Think about New York’s “South Street Seaport,” where Fulton St meets the East River. Then there’s Baltimore, and Boston. By contrast, we have an abandoned slaughterhouse and empty warehouses littering the beautiful Cumberland River. If I had a few million to invest, you bet I’d start buying some of that land. They say a hundred people a day move to Nashville…

I know because every day I hear 2 or 3 explosions that rock the house and send Ms Bean scampering for cover. Right down the block they are building the new TN State Museum and the TN State Library and Archive, demolition has been going on for the past month. Because this part of town sits on a bed of limestone, the blasting reverberates for miles. It’s not unlike the earthquake I felt in VA! In fact, sometimes it feels like we’re living in a war zone.

Yesterday was a “very bad day” for our Mayor Megan Barry. A real-life Scandal has come to life since it was reported she’s been having an affair with her top security guard. In the midst of trying to get a multi-billion dollar mass transport deal through, she will now be investigated by her state prosecutor, who’s name is, I kid you not, District Attorney Glenn Funk! Let’s just hope the Mayor didn’t write off some extra-marital work trips or empty any mini-bars.

I’m not so curious about our Mayor’s love life. And I didn’t watch the SOTU address. Nor do I wish to masticate over what may or may not be in some random “memo” that “might” be released today. There’s flu running rampant in the Bride’s house so we’re keeping our distance because a trip to Great Grandma Ada is up next. I’ll be sure to download Curious Nashville for the plane.

This is a picture of the Lick Creek Tunnel becoming the Lick Branch Sewer in 1895.

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Barre and Beyond

The other day I took my first Barre class at the local YMCA. There was no actual ballet bar in this oasis of a yoga-type studio, surrounded by intense gym dudes lifting weights to blaring music. But we did have mats and discs and tiny yoga balls, plus an amazing teacher who told us it was her 47th birthday, although I could have sworn she was 27! It was the hardest exercise class I’ve ever done, hands (and knees) down, and that’s saying alot; still, I persisted!

And today I can almost walk without pain.

What is it about approaching a big birthday number that makes us want to turn back time just a little? Before my 60th birthday I started dyeing my hair red. Thankfully, I gave up on that one. Now as the big seven OH is approaching, I thought I might address my wrinkles. I didn’t mind those pesky lines when they were only horizontal, but the vertical intersections make me look mad all the time.

No, no knife work thank you, still I’d heard about this thing called Retin A cream, the kind you need a prescription for, so in the Fall I made an appointment with a dermatologist. I needed to find a new doc anyway, after moving, to check my skin/barnacles for cancer every year and deal with the Guttate Psoriasis that appeared ten years ago. Cut to a few weeks ago. I mentioned this wonder cream to my attractive young derm doc, aren’t they all, and she said without skipping a beat –

“We don’t do fillers.”

Fillers? Do I need fillers? What are fillers? Am I too late to the self-care party? The doctor explained that she doesn’t actually do cosmetic work at this facility, but she will do restorative work. I started to feel like an old car, or maybe an antique piece of furniture; the kind you don’t want to scrape the paint off because it would effect the value on the Antiques Roadshow. Just get it professionally cleaned.

I walked out with an Rx for the miracle cream I was to put on my face at night (Tretinoin Cream 0.025%) and some kind of moisturizer for my whole body which Medicare would pay for? (Ammonium Lact 12%) to use every morning. My face started to burn, I began to look like Strawberry Shortcake who was crumbling and peeling away. Every time I saw the Bride she’d say, “Mom what’s wrong with you? Your skin is scabby.” Luckily, my smart young ER doc told me to only use it three times a week. I forgot I still have red-headed skin.

Why are we women so hard on ourselves and aging? Who the heck ages gracefully? I aspire to age like Helen Mirren, not Jane Fonda. I’d like my face to register surprise when I see something surprising. That doesn’t mean Megan Kelly can throw shade at Fonda for not wanting to discuss her facelifts. There’s something just a little bit “mean girl” about Kelly. Besides, I bet she gets Botox shots.

I read an article that says little girls become accustomed to being addressed or defined by their looks by the age of 7. It suggested we use different adjectives to describe young girls, like: “Inventive,” “Confident,” “Curious.” When I noticed the Love Bug was totally in charge on the basketball court, telling her team mates where to stand, I thought to myself she is a little BOSS, just like her Mama. Little Miss Bossy Pants. Then I thought nah, she’s a Leader!

Women are standing up, we are stepping up. And maybe some award shows aren’t keeping up, but my generation will define aging any darn way we want to. We marched to get control over our own bodies, and we don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. https://thinkprogress.org/gop-abortion-shutdown-dfd173817d47/

We need to stop judging others who might choose a different course, we have inalienable rights to take a pill, use a cream or get an eyebrow lift. First, I would have to find my eyebrows of course.

And if I still want to pretend I’m a ballerina without a bar, so be it. I’ve been teaching the Bug to string beads, and Bob’s been teaching her how to drill holes in shells. Barre or no bar, the force is strong in us!

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You Say Nutella,

I say “Nut Butter Salted Caramel Peanut Butter,” made by Nut Butter Nation in Nashville, TN. This local delicacy has become one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. I spread a dollop onto one toasted Nuti-Grain Eggo blueberry waffle, add a cup of coffee and I’m ready for my day. I might also add some nut butter to a bowl of oatmeal as my food blogger friend KERF taught me. I was never one for a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich, even though that is a staple for Bob if he finds himself adrift for lunch.

A different kind of nut butter has recently produced riots in France. A nut butter I thought was French, but is actually Italian! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42826028

The problem with Nutella started in this country when prices began to soar, and instead of hoarding it, we may have created a surplus? Maybe that’s why grocers in France decided to drop the price of a jar of this choco-nutty deliciousness from 4.50 euro to 1.50 euro…Now I never thought of the French as particularly aggressive shoppers. In fact, I like to think of Madame strolling through her market, in kitten heels, with a quaint wicker basket picking out only the choicest of delights for her family. I thought “bloody Friday,” aka the day after Thanksgiving for consumer deals, was a typical American invention.

An all American stampede through the doors of Walmart for a coveted TV, sure. But the French, mais non! However, you don’t want to mess with their Nutella crepes!

“They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media. A member of staff at one Intermarché shop in central France told the regional newspaper Le Progrès: “We were trying to get in between the customers but they were pushing us.”

Now there is nothing wrong with Nutella mind you. This dark, creamy hazelnut spread began its life as a way to ration chocolate during the Napoleonic Wars. Then a century later, a crafty Italian baker decided it wasn’t such a bad idea; after WWII ,when chocolate was again hard to find, he swirled a little cocoa into some hazelnut cream, thereby creating Pasta Gianduja, renamed “Nutella” in 1964. The stuff dreams are made of!

So it’s an Italian invention that is produced in, wait, where is it made? It seems that like beer, some of this divine delicacy comes from the original factory in Turin, Italy – and some is made for the American market! It’s even packaged differently – “Formato Famiglia” or the imported version in a glass jar vs the Canadian-made, American version in plastic tubs. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/nutella-imported-vs-domestic-is-there-a-difference/2014/05/30/3

I remember visiting Holland and being told the Heineken made there, with Dutch water, was better than our Heineken in the states. Well, there are people here who will pay more for the original Italian Nutella in a glass jar, because they say it isn’t so sweet. And did you know that next month we will celebrate World Nutella Day? An Italian-American blogger and Nutella afficianado, decided to dedicate one day a year to her favourite spread.

On February 5th 2007 “World Nutella® Day” was launched, and this schmear has been spreading ever since. One jar of Nutella is sold almost every 3 seconds throughout the world, so you can imagine how well this little family (Ferrero) business is doing.

Despite selling out of its entire stock in 15 minutes at a grocery store near Toulouse, leaving one woman with a black eye, I doubt the rioting will spread throughout Europe or the rest of the world; more than 160 countries carry Nutella on their shelves.

For my part, I’ll stick to my fancy local peanut butter. And fun facts – did you know that peanuts are not a nut? They are actually legumes grown underground. Also American kids on average will consume more than 1,500 PB&J sandwiches before they graduate high school. But they may not eat the crusts.

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Resolved: That I will march with women and like-minded men until:

  • Women everywhere receive equal pay for equal work
  • Our reproductive rights are no longer threatened
  • Women make up 50% of the House AND the Senate
  • Women are appointed to the Supreme Court and Federal Judgeships in equal number
  • The ERA is passed; Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Rape, sexual harassment and physical and/or emotional abuse are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and YES, we know the difference between a “bad date” “consent,” “enthusiastic consent” and sexual misconduct.
  • Women of every color, indigenous Native American and LGBT women are no longer marginalized
  • We stop sexualizing young girls in the entertainment industry and end sex trafficking

Yes, I’ve been at this a long time. Writing about it, donating to progressive candidates, arguing with others and begging people to go out and vote for our democracy to survive.

My Nana couldn’t vote when we women won that right because she was married to an “illegal alien” aka an Irishman fresh off the boat. I felt the sting of patriarchy as a college student, unable to purchase that new birth control pill, because I wasn’t married. I marched in 1978 for the ERA, and I marched with Planned Parenthood when the Bride was 12. I marched last year in DC and I marched this year in Nashville. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of all this marching.

But the pendulum will swing back, way back. Because we women are a great force, we are life-giving and life-affirming. And we cannot be stopped. Notice our little basketball player in pearls.

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